Turbines Tree

Is the Electric Car now a viable option?

The electric car has long been hailed as the car of the future. Car companies have invested in better performing and reliable cars. The Government are encouraging sales by offering grants to buyers and providing more power points for recharging cars.

Despite this, the sales of electric vehicles (EV) in the UK remain sluggish. In 2011 the Government offered a grant of £5,000 to anyone buying an EV, but up to June 2012 only 1706 claims have been made. Manufacturers, the Government and experts, though, still proclaim the EV has a large part to play in our automotive future. So is the electric car a truly viable option or are the authorities being idealists?

The Advantages of driving an EV

The biggest breakthrough in recent times is customers can now get an EV that will drive between 60 and 100 miles on a single charge. So for many commuters the car would suit their lifestyle as they are driving less than that per day. In fact, it is estimated that most journeys made on the road are less than 10 miles. They then can charge the car overnight at home meaning they never have to worry about running out of power (called range anxiety). There are also an ever- increasing number of charge points around the country so it is possible to ‘fill-up’ on longer journeys. There is full list of charge points and you can download an app helps you find them on your travels at: Electric Vehicle (EV) Network

Without a doubt the actual cost of charging an EV is its biggest asset. A full recharge using domestic a socket costs approximately £2-£3 or even cheaper if you charge overnight when electricity rates are less. So that is 100 miles travel for £3! Compared to petrol, electricity offers a savings that could run into the thousands. In addition, the maintenance costs are also low. EV’s have a relatively low number of parts so there is less to go wrong with the engine. With exception of a problem with the battery itself, the biggest expense of running an EV is the tyres.

Recently he Government have also supported the electric car by offering a range of help to drivers. This includes a £5,000 grant to help buy a new EV, free road tax, exemption from the congestion charge and free parking in many major cities. Some car companies themselves offer free pick-up for anyone that runs out of electricity during their first year of ownership.

The Disadvantages of Buying an Electric Car

The biggest thing holding the EV back is the cost. An EV costs approximately £10,000 more than its fuel equivalent. For example, the most popular EV is the Nissan Leaf which costs in the region of £26,000.

Even with £5,000 off with a Government grant potential EV buyers must decide if they can save the extra initial outlay in fuel cost savings. In addition, though running costs are cheap if the battery breaks after the usual 5 year warranty it costs around £8000 to replace; though you can purchase a warranty for much less.

Away from the financial side there are two main factors holding the EV back, range anxiety (fear you will run out of electricity and have nowhere to recharge) and time it takes to recharge the battery. A full recharge can take up to 12 hours with some EV’s. To recharge domestically you must also have off road parking as you cannot run a power cable through the street to your car. As for range anxiety there are many more charge points appearing but there are also still blackspots, particularly in the countryside. Some charge spots are ‘rapid-charge points’ but even those can consist of a lengthy wait to charge your car which is a world away from dropping in at a petrol station.

The Verdict

The electric car obviously has its limitations. However, the truth is improvements are being made in the technology all the time. Batteries are lasting longer and charging times are diminishing. The electric car is becoming ever-more viable. To be viable right now you must ask yourself the following:

  • How far do I drive a day?
  • Will I save money buying an EV?
  • How convenient will it be to charge my car?

If the answers are positive you could look into buying an EV today. For the rest, it may be a case of waiting a little longer for it to be truly viable. Don’t bet against it though – the change to electric cars may be gradual but, unlike many that predicted ‘the electric car is dead’, far from impossible.

Written by Michael Hallam

Leave a Reply

Download Our Free E-book

Ebook - 50 Energy Efficiency Measures